Sunday Evening News

April 16, 2006

Assistant Superintendent Mike Nelson writes to all staff each Sunday evening. This is his latest letter.

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and well-rested after your spring break.

I am an occasional Oprah-watcher.

I have read Oprah Book Club books.

I have ordered literacy gifts for a few of my colleagues off of the Oprah website.

I have written to Oprah inviting her to Enumclaw to see our literacy program.

I have purchased an "O" magazine on occasion.

I have talked with family, friends and colleagues about what I saw on an Oprah show.

I have laughed and cried while viewing an Oprah show.

I would vote for Oprah for president.....OK, maybe that's going too far! :)


How many of you could say "yes" to any or all of the above statements? Over the years, Oprah has had a significant amount of influence on our nation. Just a simple 30 second announcement of her new book club book and stores across the nation are sold out within hours/days. She's done shows on weight loss, decorating make-overs, aid response to Hurricane Katrina and this past week on public education.... particularly looking at our high schools (covered over two days/shows).

As a school system and community, we have engaged in many, many conversations about the need for structural and instructional changes to help meet the needs of all students within our high school and across our district. Six years ago when we began this journey together, we did not have Oprah doing a show on public high schools, but as I watched the show this week, I thought Enumclaw High School could be the one featured for its efforts. I am so proud of our amazing high school staff for their continued study and effort to create the best possible high school for students. I also applaud the work and commitment that each of you bring to our school system in helping it become a good place for all students. It might be a good time to reflect upon our efforts....

In May 2000, we received a 2.2 million dollar district grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for the purpose of creating the best public education system that we can in Enumclaw & Black Diamond.

In my eyes, this was a which we (our school district) or public schools in general have never seen before....and one we might not see again.

In my eyes, this grant had an amazing influence on professional development....the adult learning in our system. We were able to connect with leading educators and bring them to Enumclaw. We also were able to send many of you to conferences and learning situations outside of Enumclaw and even Washington state....common for businesses, but uncommon in public education.

In my eyes, this grant helped to strengthen a conversation about student learning in our schools and community. As a school system we took some courageous steps by making some changes from the traditional way public education was structured in our district. Not all changes were received with 100% excitement. Moving to full day kindergarten for all students three years ago, had its opposition. This vision for this decision however, was based in the value that we could positively impact student learning.

Our high school is in its third year of a small school structure of partner and interest-based schools. This decision was firmly grounded in a value system where we could set-up structures to help our staff build relationships with students and their families, thus having a positive influence on student performance and connectedness to school. We also set our sights to have all students ready for their next educational step (college-ready)....knowing that only having a high school diploma in our world today is not enough.

An incoming ninth grader now has chosen a small school, has a small school advisor and leads a conference each year with their advisor and parents. Our parents now have real time access to grades, attendance and lunch accounts. These structures are helping students. As always we continue to work on the instructional practice. Learning targets are written on every white board in every classroom every day. Our high school staff regularly works to devise assessments where students can show and demonstrate that they have met appropriate standards. Nationally known Anaheim School District teacher and author Kelly Gallagher is again in our district tomorrow working with our first year high school teachers as a continued support to help us improve our instructional practice.

Our journey is far from over, but we are on the right course. As I said earlier, Oprah has a lot of influence. Her shows last week were seen by millions of people. Let's use this energy and momentum to share our story and journey during the past six years and how we are still striving and seeking ways to get better for kids. Let's use this as catalyst for building a collective understanding within the communities of Enumclaw and Black Diamond. The timing is right.

I hope those of you who saw Oprah smiled and felt proud about your work in our district. Each of you has your own circle of influence. It may be your family, friends, neighbors, running partners.....share the many good things that are occurring within our system....share how many of the things that were shared on Oprah, we already have in place in Enumclaw.

Until next week, Happy Learning!


Enumclaw School District
"Standing as ONE"